Week 9 College football best bets, odds and game picks -- including Oklahoma vs Kansas
Week 8 was another terrific week of college football, headlined by a massive win for Ohio State over Penn State in Columbus. Once again, we suffered a brutal result in the column as South Carolina and Missouri moved the ball comfortably but could not execute in the red zone, especially in the second half.
Unfortunately, that’s just the way it goes. Now, with last weekend in the rearview mirror it’s time to get into this Week 8 slate with my weekly best bets column. We went 2-2 in the column last week — bringing us to 12-11 over the past 7 weeks. However, as I’ve said a lot lately, regression was to be expected after we cashed at an unsustainable 63% rate a season ago. There’s plenty of time to turn things around in 2023, so let’s start with this week!
We have a very compelling slate ahead of us, including a massive game in Salt Lake City as serious Pac-12 and College Football Playoff implications are on the line in what is the biggest game of the week. I love the card as a whole, which is why I’m going with 4 best bets this week to get us back on track.
With Saturday rapidly approaching, here is a look at my best bets for Week 9 of the college football season. And remember, you can check out all of our CFB predictions for the Week 9 games.
Kansas Jayhawks +10.5 vs Oklahoma Sooners (-110)
Odds taken from early best bets piece published on October 23. Playable to Kansas +9.5.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; we’re fading Oklahoma again as a heavy favorite. As I wrote earlier this week, I circled this game as a potential spot where Oklahoma could lose its second game of the campaign back in the summer. And while the Sooners are undefeated, I don’t think this is a team without flaws. I was on UCF to cover an inflated spread in last Saturday’s matchup, and the Knights could’ve won the game outright had a few calls not gone against them in pivotal moments (they also botched the game-tying 2-point conversion). Despite the Sooners’ gaudy offensive metrics, those are largely inflated because of the early season schedule they faced. After all, they still don’t run the ball effectively and the wide receivers are a question mark. Oklahoma struggled earlier this season as a double-digit favorite against a Cincinnati team that is one of the worst in the conference, so I’m going back to the well again and backing a Kansas side that I believe will have the coaching edge and a raucous home crowd on its side.
Star quarterback Jalon Daniels is likely to miss this game, but Jason Bean has been strong as the starter in his absence over the last 2 seasons. Head coach Lance Leipold has had the bye week to prepare for an Oklahoma team that has just come off a pair of one-possession victories and has Oklahoma State on deck in a massive rivalry game. This Kansas offense is capable of putting up 30+ on anybody, ranking inside the top 10 in passing and rushing success rate, plus 12th in net points per drive (CFB-Graphs). If Leipold and company turn this into a shootout, we could be in for another Oklahoma game that comes down to the wire. The Sooners are much improved and should be a CFP contender this season, but I just can’t get there with his number. Let’s back Kansas to keep things close in Lawrence.
Read our full Oklahoma vs Kansas predictions
California Bears +11 vs USC Trojans (-110)
Odds available at PointsBet Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to Cal +10.
One of my favorite spots of this week comes out west, as I’ll be backing California as a double-digit underdog at home against USC. The Trojans were supposed to be in the conversation for the College Football Playoff heading into the season, but that ship has already sailed following a defeat against Utah last week in which USC surrendered 34 points and 482 yards to a banged up Utes offense in its second loss of the season. Now, Caleb Williams and company have to turn around and play a Cal team in a game that will not nearly have the same level of hype or anticipation surrounding it. Furthermore, the Trojans have Washington on deck next week at home, before a trip to Autzen Stadium for a date with Oregon the following week. A date with Cal on the road hardly moves the needle in comparison.
While the Bears haven’t nearly been as formidable on defense as in years past, this is still a well-coached side that rises to the occasion as an underdog. USC defensive lineman Bear Alexander will also miss the first half of this game, which could free up some opportunities for a Bears offense that just had the bye week to prepare for an already terrible USC defensive unit. Cal is 6-2 against the number over its las 8 games as a home underdog, and head coach Justin Wilcox is 19-8 ATS as an underdog of 7 points or more in his tenure at Berkley, covering by an average of 6.24 points. I’d expect these trends to continue here in what is a brutal sandwich spot on the road for a USC team that is already off a pair of ugly losses. Let’s back the Bears to keep things close at home.
Be sure to check out our full USC vs California predictions
UTSA Roadrunners -17.5 over East Carolina Pirates (-110)
Odds available at BetMGM Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to UTSA -19.5.
For my third best bet on the card, I’ll be backing UTSA at home laying nearly 3 touchdowns. This isn’t a bet I’d typically make but fading this East Carolina team is too good to pass up. Outside of Iowa, the Pirates might have the worst offense in the country at the moment, ranking outside the top 120 in pass success rate, rushing success rate, EPA per play, early downs EPA, success on 3rd & 4th downs and net points per drive (BCF Toys). Pull up any metric you’d like and this offense is an absolute dumpster fire. And while the UTSA defense has mediocre metrics across the board, the Roadrunners did play a brutal nonconference schedule that likely devalued the improvements they’ve made to that side of the ball this season. The defense came to play in recent weeks against UAB and Florida Atlantic, and they’ll see a much easier matchup this week against an offense that can’t move the ball on anybody.
On the other side, the East Carolina defense is actually performing well above expectations this season, ranking inside the top 5 in the country in rushing success rate and 17th in EPA per rush. However, this is still a unit that can’t defend the pass (110th in EPA per pass) and is 69th in net points per drive as a result. Well it just so happens that UTSA doesn’t want to run the ball all that much, relying on longtime quarterback Frank Harris and a passing game that has exploded since the start of conference play. The Roadrunners have scored 126 points over their 3 AAC games, and I’d expect another outburst from Harris and company at home. This one feels like a 31-10 UTSA win, so let’s back the Roadrunners here. Meep Meep!
ML parlay: Boise State over Wyoming & South Alabama over Louisiana (-110)
Odds available at BetRivers Sportsbook at time of publishing. Playable to -120.
For a special fourth and final best bet, I’m going back to the well with a money line parlay to help get us back on track. I showed value in both of these teams against the spread initially, but since both numbers have steamed up in the market, I’ll be looking to just play Boise State and South Alabama on the money line for a payout of -110. For starters, this is the ultimate buy-low spot for a Boise State team that profiles better than its season-long metrics would suggest. The typically stout Broncos defense has struggled this season, but keep in mind that they’ve played a schedule that includes Washington, UCF and Memphis, with 2 of those games coming on the road. Wyoming doesn’t have nearly the same level of passing offense as those other squads. Additionally, Boise State’s running game is one of the best in the country against a Wyoming defensive unit that is outside the top 100 in rush success rate and EPA per rush per College Football Data. I’ll take the Broncos to get the job done at home.
Both of South Alabama’s losses could have gone the other way, with the Jaguars losing a close game at James Madison (no shame in that) and dropping a puzzling game against Central Michigan. I’m choosing to throw that game out as an outlier, especially because the Jaguars demolished Oklahoma State on the road the week before, so it was an obvious letdown spot. South Alabama’s offense has been clicking on all cylinders for most of the season (15th in EPA per pass, 18th in passing success rate, 16th in points per drive), and the same goes for a defense that is quietly inside the top 40 in passing and rushing success rate. The same can’t be said for a Louisiana team who’s results are going to start matching its awful defensive metrics (103rd in success rate, 123rd in EPA per pass) at some point. Let’s go with the Jags to get another win at home.
Be sure to check out all of our NCAAF Week 9 picks for the biggest games on Saturday